Dina Schiff Massachi’s New Book about the Characters of Oz– A few years ago I wrote a Storied Charlotte blog post about Dina Schiff Massachi’s participation in the PBS’s documentary titled American Oz: The True Wizard Behind the Curtain, which first aired in April 2021 as part of PBS’s American Experience series. To see this earlier blog post, please click on this link: Dina Massachi, L. Frank Baum, and The American Experience.
Since then, Dina has continued to teach courses on Oz at UNC Charlotte and work as an Oz scholar. Her most recent accomplishment in this field of Oz scholarship is the publication of her edited collection titled The Characters of Oz: Essays on Their Adaptation and Transformation, which was just published by McFarland & Company. Here is the link to the publisher’s listing of the book: https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/the-characters-of-oz/
I recently contacted Dina and asked her for more information about how she came to edit The Characters of Oz. Here is what she sent to me:
For a number of years now, I’ve given talks at the International Wizard of Oz Club’s conventions, theming each talk around a different Oz character, how they’ve adapted, and what their changes say about our American culture. My initial vision for The Characters of Oz was to expand on these talks by inviting members of the Oz Club and other Oz scholars to write essays about Baum’s memorable characters. I wrote up a book proposal and had a contract much faster than I expected—it seemed the powers that be wanted this just as much as I did.
The funny thing about children’s fairylands is everyone thinks the magic is in the fantasy world. While Oz may be spectacular, the real magic in Oz is how the characters all work together to help one another. To quote Jack Zipes, “As an icon of utopian home, Oz reveals how differences might shine and be truly appreciated and how a communal spirit might flourish.” One of the magical things about working with Oz is that same communal spirit prevails— my colleague Mark West contributed an essay, fellow Oz scholars came aboard and referred me to their friends, a former student of the English Department’s M.A program jumped in, Baum descendants contributed, and by the end I had a collection that allowed different voices to shine while collectively telling the tale of how America’s fairy tale has adapted and changed to reflect the changes within America.
I’m a project junkie. The hardest part of completing a project is I need to figure out what comes next. Right around the time Characters was a completed manuscript, I had an idea for my next project—I would continue the collaboration between the Oz Club, the Oz academics, and my other friends in the Oz world and host an Oz festival to make this world come alive for my students and the broader Charlotte community. With thanks to the North Carolina Humanities, and the endless support of my colleagues at UNC Charlotte, that dream is coming true. CharlOz, as we are calling this festival, will take place from September 27-29, 2024, and we are just starting to announce some of our stellar lineup (including Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked). The Charlotte Teacher’s Institute is involved, and we hope to create something magical for everyone—from small children to the young at heart. For more details, please check out: https://charloz.charlotte.edu/
As one of the contributors to Dina’s The Characters of Oz, I am pleased to be included in Dina’s circle of Oz scholars and aficionados. I am also pleased to be one of her helpers as she plans for the upcoming CharlOz festival. Through her research and publications and her tireless work in organizing CharlOz, Dina is making a real difference not just in the world of Oz scholarship but also in the land of Storied Charlotte.